38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:38-40)
With one week to go before our celebration of that sign’s fulfillment, it is right for us to ponder it, and even ponder our own sign of Jonah. Jesus died that we might live, and, as Jonah did, he spent those three days in the sleep of death – our death. And now we have life to the fullest, and are freed from the tombs beck and call.
“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
3 For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD, my God.
7 When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8 Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD.” (Jonah 2:2-9)
For all intents and purposes Jonah was dead. He had disobeyed God, and had been punished by death. He was cast into the sea, and then the fish swallowed him up. Jonah knew his fate, but he cried out of his tribulation and Yahweh heard his plea and granted him mercy. Jesus too cried, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani,” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In His tribulation, our tribulation, he cried out to God. Then he died our death and went into His sleep of death.
We all had our sleep of death at the Baptismal font. There we disobedient people were cast into the depths of the sea, and we died. Yet, in faith – the new faith granted in that baptism – we knew that we would look again upon God’s holy temple. We knew that our please would be answered, and that salvation is of the Lord. We have our own sign of Jonah – it was made upon our head and heart to mark us as one redeemed by God.